Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch refused to wear a mask during in-person proceedings despite his colleague Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s concerns about COVID-19, a new reports revealed Tuesday. His defiance led Sotomayor, who is a diabetes patient and has high risk of illness from the coronavirus, to attend the hearings remotely.
Despite a request from Chief Justice John Roberts, Gorsuch, who sits next to Sotomayor, refused to wear a mask, NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg reported, citing court sources.
Sotomayor was the only justice to wear a mask when the in-person proceedings in courtrooms resumed last year. “With the surge of the highly transmissible omicron variant in the winter, however, Sotomayor felt unsafe sitting next to unmasked people,” the NPR report reads.
Chief Justice asked the all justices to wear masks an Gorsuch, one of the three justices nominated by former President Donald Trump, was the only one to refuse. All nine justices have been vaccinated and received boosters for COVID-19.
He had also refused to wear a mask during the justices’ weekly conferences. Along with Sotomayor, Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest in the court, also attended the hearing remotely.
Bayer, as per his spokesperson, had received the results of a COVID-19 test that was later determined to be a false positive.
The justices heard two cases. The first one was a dispute over Boston’s denial of a conservative group’s bid to fly a flag bearing a cross outside City Hall. Then they heard a case that involved the family of a Holocaust survivor attempting to recover a painting by impressionist master Camille Pissarro that had been stolen by the Nazis.